Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A hobby purist

I always seem to hear about the so-called group of "baseball purists" these days.

As often as they're mentioned, though, it's hard to give an exact definition as to what exactly a purist even is

From what I can gather, I'd say a purist is someone who would've enjoyed the dead-ball era a lot more than today's game. Things like a perfect sacrifice bunt or a series of singles to score the lone run in a 1-0 game are probably more up their alley.

As for myself, I'd say I'm somewhere right in the middle of the spectrum. I love seeing a good sac bunt, but a soaring 450-foot dinger is nothing short of spectacular. 

A 103-MPH Aroldis Chapman fastball makes for good TV, but I get just as much enjoyment out of seeing a Bruce Chen-like finesse pitcher.

So, then, can purists exist in the cardboard industry as well?

I'd say so. There might not be many left, but I'm sure a few people out there who collect nothing but base cards. Notably, vintage.

From Bernie Carbo to Carl Yastrzemski, I'm definitely an all-out vintage lover.

I guess you could consider me a purist in that regard.

Even though I grew up in a universe covered with shiny inserts and high-dollar parallels, my main focus has always been with base cards.

While there are a select few exceptions, base usually makes or breaks a set for me. If a brand doesn't have a good base set, then chances are I'm not going to like it very much.

I've always thought about why exactly that is. The one big thing I've come up with is the fact that you just never know what you'll find on a base card.

While good in limited quantities, most insert sets are fairly predictable. You're not going to see many great action shots, and you'll probably see the same group of players pop up on 95 percent of insert checklists.

With base cards, though, you just never know. Maybe you'll pull a relatively obscure player from your hometown. Maybe you'll get a card of a guy on your favorite team. Maybe you'll even find something you've never seen before.

I can't say I own another card quite like this Mariano Rivera. Between the bag of balls, the pitching coach (I assume), and the ball screen, this type of shot isn't something you see every day.

And it's all thanks to your standard Topps Flagship checklist.

I wouldn't say I'm a complete hobby purist, though.

As with the game of baseball itself, I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle.

I love base cards. The bulk of my cardboard budget goes towards, you guessed it, base cards. Still, a nice chunk of my collection is devoted to inserts and other cards of the like.

While base cards provide most of my pack-busting thrill, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little eager to see what inserts awaited me.

Although it's hard to say when inserts hit their peak, they've been around for a while now. Twenty years ago, many lucky collectors pulled this beautiful Cecil Fielder insert in their packs of 1993 Upper Deck.

Frankly, it's hard for me to imagine a hobby without inserts.

I think that's a byproduct of growing up during the whirlwind of the late '90s.

I used to go head over heels for numbered parallels.

I'm not exactly sure what triggered it, but I was absolutely bonkers for these things back in the day.

They're not a huge part of my collecting focus anymore, but I do still enjoy them quite a bit. That probably sets me apart from most hobby purists, I'd guess.

Cards such as this uber-shiny John Olerud (numbered to 750 copies) were created for the sole purpose of driving up the stock of sets like Donruss Elite. And it worked.

I've plunged through many dime and quarter boxes in search for shiny, gimmicky cards like this one.

As long as companies don't overdo it, numbered issues are a welcome part of the hobby for me. Unfortunately, with pink, camo, green, and whatever else, the people at Topps are doing exactly that.

They're killing the aura of serially-numbered cards.

Which reminds me...

Short-prints are cool.

While they've been around since the vintage days, companies only started purposefully limiting certain cards in the last few decades.

For the most part, I was okay with that. Short-prints are still a guilty pleasure of mine these days.

However, their charm is starting to wear off on me. Topps crammed most of the game's biggest stars into this year's Heritage checklist, a shameless tactic that only worsened their money-hungry image.

Nowadays, every single set seems to have a short-print checklist. Gypsy Queen, Archives, A&G, you name it. Even Flagship has a few uber-rare SPs to chase.

If companies can calm down with the short-print craze in the coming years, then I'll be back on board.

For now, though, I think I'd have to side with the purists.

I own a grand total of three printing plates.

When I first broke back into the hobby about eight years ago, one of my goals was to snatch up a few 1/1s. For the last, oh, seven years, though, I could honestly care less about those pesky printing plates.

While a neat idea at first, it didn't take long for companies to jump the shark. While they may say 1/1 on the back, they're actually more common than a lot of insert sets these days. There's just so many of them in circulation.

As far as I'm concerned, printing plates can go scratch.

Ah, yes.

The memorabilia market.

Autographs have been in packs since the early '90s, while game-used cards famously first popped up in the 1997 Upper Deck checklist.

A lot of the "new age" collectors snatch up these things left and right. I was one of those people for a long time. I fell for the big cash grab.

Now, I'm 100 percent with the purists on these. I almost never get new memorabilia cards anymore. Maybe one a year, if that.

I just reached a point where I asked myself what I was really getting with these. Do I really want that five-dollar jersey card when I could have 50 dime cards or a couple sweet vintage finds for the same price?

The fact that card companies once again went overboard with these didn't help. Check out this Wade Miller fielding glove/hat/batting glove/jersey combo. Oh, and don't forget the autograph.

I've kept it for the sheer novelty, but it's obvious that sets like Prime Patches were just trying to cram in as much as they could to make a few bucks on their product.

That's enough to make me a purist.

Overall, though, I'm probably right smack dab in the middle of things. I keep things low-end, with the occasional cardboard splurge here and there.

I've found it's the better route to take in this hobby.


Jeff said...

I think that's Mel Stottlemyre on the Rivera card.

petethan said...

As usual, I'm right there with ya. I think it's fun to pull a random parallel or relic or autograph in a pack. But I haven't sought one out specifically. (That said, I'm considering a specialty parallel collecting habit.. we'll see.)

beefman said...

Just like Petethan, I'm with you 100% on this one, Nick.

Although it's a fun novelty to yank a serial #'d parallel or a relic/auto from a pack of cards, it's the base set that I'm after. I'd prefer a card of a middle-reliever over a 'superstar' any day. The bigger the base set, the better.

I know you'll agree that Topps Total/UD 40-Man are among the best sets ever made!

Nick J

P.S. I was rummaging through my 1998 Pacific Online set the other day, and I found a Kevin Mitchell card. He was with the Athletics! Do you have a card of him with the A's? If not, I will go through my pile of doubles, and hopefully I will be able to send one your way...

Michael Chase said...

I'm really liking that Olerud..very nice!